By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are slated to arrive in Southern California next week with healthcare workers among the first expected to receive the shots.

“The general public has time to sit back and watch this develop,” Dr. Armand Dorian, chief medical officer at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, said.

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Dorian will be among that first group to get vaccinated.

“Be confident in the fact we are watching this minute by minute and making sure that we’re not gonna be doing harm,” he said. “We only want to do good.”

Dorian said the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and others are safer than most — and have fewer side effects — since they do not rely on injecting people with a live, weakened strain of the virus.

“There is no virus that we’re putting inside of you,” he said. “We’re giving you just a code to make a protein that’s similar to the other protein, and then once the body sees that protein, it makes antibodies against it, so it prepares your body for the potential chance of getting the virus.”

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And in the months to come, the vaccination will be made available to the general population — though questions remain about when pregnant women, children and immunocompromised individuals should get vaccinated since they were not part of the initial trials.

According to Dorian, the first round of trials only tested the vaccine on healthy, younger adults and older adults with well-controlled health conditions because it needed to be tested in individuals that could reliably produce antibodies. He said the next wave of testing would involve high-risk populations.

But Dr. Rashmi Rao, a high-risk obstetrician-gynecologist at UCLA, contends pregnant women should have been included in the initial Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca trials.

“This whole thing about theoretical risk for fetal harm is actually quite low,” she said. “This whole protection by exclusion, it actually ultimately ends up being harmful. In fact our society for maternal fetal medicine has advocated for pregnant healthcare workers who are at high risk to get the vaccine.”

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Rao said pregnant patients should talk to their doctor about getting the vaccine when it becomes available, because the answer depends on an individual’s risk.